WYE OAK at Paradiso Noord, Amsterdam

Wye Oak, an indie duo from Baltimore, played in Amsterdam for the first date on their European tour, following the release of their fifth album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Wye Oak is a band with a unique sound: a mixture of indie, electro and dream-folk, formed by Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner.

Wasner and Stack met a college and formed Wye Oak, releasing their first album If Children in 2007. Since their first release they have released four more albums every few years. Each album has been unpredictable in its sound, making it clear that this is a band that are clearly not afraid to push boundaries: their 2011 album Shriek featured no strings at all, which was a huge U turn for the band. It is this changeability that makes the duo exciting: their sound has dramatically shifted throughout the years, but has always remained specifically theirs.

In an interview with The Skinny, Wasner describes this change in musical direction with their latest record: “In the past we’ve set out to be minimal, but ended up maximal, so with this record, we were just like “Fuck it! Let’s be maximal!” It is this maximal sound which makes The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs so different from their previous records. In an interview with Noise Trade Wasner described the album’s title as “a psychological litmus test,” representing different things to both band members. For Wasner the ‘It’ represents an ominous fear, and for Stack ‘It’ represents a disappearing desire.

This is also their first tour as a three piece, which Wasner jokes: “You’ve gotta mix things up to keep it interesting right?” and they are accompanied on stage tonight by a bass player. This adds to the sound of the band live, creating vast soundscapes and layers to their set. Both Stack and Wasner are accomplished musicians in their own right: Stack has toured with the likes of EL VY and Lambchop and is notorious for playing drums, keyboard and percussion simultaneously. Wasner plays keys and guitar and also has her own solo project, Flock of Dimes.

Their recent album is their biggest record to date, creating a cinematic feel to their newer songs. They play a number of tracks off their new record, against a backdrop of blue skies and clouds adding to the surreal aspect of the gig, particularly evident in the stand out performance of Lifer.

Highlights include the I Know The Law from their 2014 release, Shriek, and Watching The Waiting from the album Tween (2016). The latter is particularly moving, as Wasner takes centre stage performing an acoustic rendition of the song. She explains that Watching The Waiting is about the unexpected turns in life sometimes leading to good things. This is beautifully portrayed in the lyrics as Wasner earnestly sings: “When I made my plan / There were some things for which I did not account / I could not have seen myself here.” There is a marked contrast from the cinematic and booming tracks they have played previously, to this slower and softer track, which serves to highlights the talent, versatility and emotional deftness of Wasner as a performer.

Towards the end of their set they played the brooding Civilian, the title track from their 2011 album. The audience immediately respond to this song and it is clear it has become somewhat of an anthem for Wye Oak.

They ended the gig with the title track off their record, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, a fast tempo track throbbing with emotion and depth, building to a crescendo of the looping lyrics: ‘the louder I call, the faster it runs / the quiet is ours, the work has begun.’ It is a powerful way to end, leaving the audience wanting more. It is clear from tonight that this is a band who will always follow their own path; enigmatic performers who aren’t afraid to explore their sound and take their fans to places they haven’t been before.      Bryony Cole    20th April 2018

Click here for the official video of The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs